Festival de Marie-Galante Terre de Blues : culture for economic development

Some 16,000 people attended the 17th edition of the Festival de Marie-Galante Terre de Blues which took place from May 13 to 16, 2016. Nine tops of the bill from Europe, Africa, America and the Caribbean islands performed on the main stage set up in the Habitation Murât but other artists presented their show on smaller stages in the three municipalities of the island.


According to some members of the audience, this 17th edition of the Festival of Marie-Galante Terre de Blues was not as spectacular as that of last year. Others found it exceptional as usual. What is certain the organization did not have enough time to call for external funds. The Community of Communes of Marie-Galante which is the main organizer changed presidency and the new president of this community, Maryse Etzol, was elected in July, 2015. As for the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, one of the biggest funder of the event, it elected a new president – Harry Chalus – and renewed his councilors in December 2015. There were only three months to organise these concerts. According to the organization, this financial uncertainty will not be repeated because the two largest communities on the island – the Regional Council and the Departmental Council – are commited to paying a grant to the festival over the next three years.

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A festival like an economic engine

Created in 2000, under the name of the Festival Creole Blues, this musical event became Festival de Marie-Galante Terre de Blues five years later and has come a long way.

Today, with the Tour de Marie-Galante – Cycling Race which usually takes place in July of every year, the Festival de Marie-Galante Terre de Blues became a major cultural meeting at Pentecost. Shuttles – in particular those of the shipping company Express des Îles – increase their rotations between Pointe-à-Pitre and the island nicknamed “The Great Round Flat Cake” to transport thousands of festival-goers. During these four days of concerts, all the rental cars, restaurants, hotels and gîtes are stormed and fully booked. The ticket prices to attend the concerts are adapted to the ages of the spectators, reduced rates are available for the residents of Marie-Galante, the “pass” for three days of concerts in the normal rate is 75.00 euros.

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Over 135 artists and groups in 17 years

Impossible to know if the organizers manage to balance their accounts or make money because the most important for the political authorities is to “boost” the economy of this small island located south of the Guadeloupe archipelago. This year, the “village” of the festival was in the Church Square of the town of Grand-Bourg so that local traders take advantage of the festivalgoers passage.

In seventeen years of existence, some 135 artists and bands performed on the stage in Marie-galantaise. A few come from Europe but the majority comes from the African and American continents and the Caribbean (Cuba, Dominica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Martinique, Guadeloupe etc).

This year, the theme of the festival was “Lavwa Chari” (Songs of Labour). The promoter of the event was Valentin Zodros, a farmer from Marie-Galante who continues the tradition of plowing song, an intangible heritage of the island.

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A musical four-day trip

Last Friday, May 13, Ceiba (France), K’Koustik (Guadeloupe) and Exile One (Dominica) opened the festival on the stage of the Habitation Murât. Unfortunately, the léwòz with the gwoka group, Kan’nida, was canceled for technical reasons. On Saturday, May 14, the trio Elles & Elles (Martinique), Macéo Parker (United States) and Konshens (Jamaica) performed in front of the audience. On Sunday, May15, the duet Mado-Ladrezeau (Guadeloupe), Lokua Kanza (Congo) and Beres Hammond (Jamaica) closed the major concerts but, the next day, small concerts were held in restaurants in three towns of the island (Grand-Bourg, Capesterre and Saint-Louis) and under the kiosk in the ferry terminal.

“The Island of a Hundred Mills” is already preparing for 2017 the 18th edition of the Festival de Marie-Galante Terre de Blues, 18 years is the age of majority in Guadeloupe…